Introducing beautiful Salta, Argentina

June, 2011

Heading north once again across this expansive South American continent, on an overnight bus from Mendoza to beautiful Salta, in Argentina.

Following the last wild bus trip from Chile’s Santiago to Mendoza across the stunning Andes, here we are again, but on a much longer bus journey than the last.

Mendoza, Salta, Argentina, South AmericaThe plan is to try and see the famous arid Atacama Desert for some fabulous star gazing, in the clearest of desert skies, and in the most driest place on earth…

Travel

If you find yourself in Mendoza and wanting to head north to Salta, then the comfortable overnight Andesmar bus takes over 19 hours. Don’t believe what the label in the map at right, says – it lies.

Of course as most of the travel is during the night, there isn’t much to see on this journey. So, I suggest you take loads of music, games, and reading material. If you’re anything like me and can’t sleep much on buses, you will get bored.

Also, I’m not a big fan of Spanish dubbed movies with Spanish titles blaring in your ears.

bus terminal, Salta, Argentina, South America

Trusty bus terminal, Salta (our second home)

Salta

Founded by the Spanish in 1582 and lying in the Lerma Valley at around 1,152 metres (3,780 feet), this region is famous for wine production and the uncommon Torrontés grape, and is one of Argentina’s oldest cities.

Perhaps a third wine tasting session? The tastings in Santa Cruz, Chile and Mendoza were both excellent.

Salta is also famous for its gorgeous colonial architecture.

Cathedral, Salta, Argentina, South America

Panteón de las Glorias del Norte – cathedral built in 1856 following an earthquake that destroyed the old building

An inside glimpse of the intricate opulence.

Cathedral, Salta, Argentina, South America

Stunning interior commemorates many of Argentina’s heroes

And if you have time and wish to partake…

Salta Cathedral, Salta, Argentina, South America

Mass

On a side note, I have noticed many Bolivians here in Salta. Perhaps as Bolivia is the poorest country in South America, borders are crossed for a better life.

Many seem to sell merchandise on the streets and in the parks of Salta. Children as young as five sell arts, crafts, snacks, and trinkets.

trinket seller, Salta, Argentina, South America

Young trinket seller

Salta has a friendly and safe feel – locals are very hospitable.

Salta, Argentina, South America

At home

Other sights in Salta include several theatres and museums.

A shame that I discovered after leaving Salta that one museum exhibits perfectly preserved 500-year-old children bodies, sacrificed to Inca Gods in the Andes – then again, a tad macabre.

Salta, Argentina, South America

Cooking up lunch

Salta hosts art exhibitions, music festivals, parades, shows, and cultural events throughout the year – there seems to always be something happening, each time you take a stroll.

If you’re visiting during the month of April, you are treated with an entire month of extra activities such as a handcraft exposition, and cultural and live orchestral performances, during the April Culture Festival.

Salta, Argentina, South America

Protection

As with many areas in South America, Salta hosts a plethora of parades – any excuse for a parade I say, which is a lot of fun for tourists. Though I am pretty sure that parades are not held because of tourists. On the contrary, perhaps it is because of tradition and the love of celebrating…anything.

Makes parties not war.

Gaucho Parade

Greeted by a Gaucho Parade whilst wandering the streets of Salta today, what a show of intriguing solidarity.

Gaucho parade, Salta, Argentina, South America

Transport juxtaposition – stiff rawhide chaps protect against thorns and cacti spines

Gauchos (cowboys) of varying ages parade each year on June 17th in memory of Martín Miguel de Güemes, the national hero that fought for independence back in the early 1800s.

Gaucho parade, Salta, Argentina, South America

Handsom Gaucho

This event begins the night before at the Güemes monument and as an all-night vigil, ends with the parade at the base of San Bernardo Hill, with local and national Gauchos wearing the traditional red and black outfits.

Gaucho parade, Salta, Argentina, South America

Impatience

This is a fantastic colourful and proud spectacle for any local or tourist as it is not tourist-driven, but an important traditional event.

Salta, Argentina, South America

Not in the parade but aptly dressed

Bolivian music parade

Today we stumbled on a lovely musical show in the park with young Bolivian artists. These free events are always great to pass hours away indulging in local activities, whilst waiting on a bus verdict to the Atacama.

Bolivian artist, Salta, Argentina, South America

Curious

Beautiful South American faces of which I can’t but help to take photos of, regardless of the focus.

Bolivian artist, Salta, Argentina, South America

Young musician


Stunning day trip on the Tren a las Nubes

When in Salta, you must indulge in the Tren a las Nubes’ day trip, which is an amazing trip through the clouds, on a train.

The day is nothing short of spectacular and such a special trip that I’ve dedicated a whole post to the day’s experience, which is scheduled for next week.


Salta saga

Things don’t always go smoothly when you’re on the road, right?

Have you ever visited travel blogs that paint a flawless rosy picture of everything always going to plan, or fantastically well, or the perfect trip? Either these travellers are extremely lucky and nothing ever goes wrong for them, which I find unbelievable after 30-plus years of travel, or their portrayal is not entirely sincere. What do you think?

Anyway…

With the intention of only staying in Salta long enough to organise a bus to the Atacama Desert, with every day that passes, the sinking feeling of never getting there is fast becoming reality.

Daily trips to our trusty bus station to hear all sorts of excuses of why buses to the border are cancelled, are waning thin.

The snow is too deep. The wind is too strong. The weather is much too dangerous…but only at the border. Perhaps it’s because this border crossing is at over 4,000 metres high, so subject to extreme weather conditions.

This journey back across the Andes and descending down into the Chilean side of San Pedro de Atacama, is said to be spectacular.

Needing another travel plan as we can’t stay in Salta forever and with the Atacama an ever-fading dream, then crossing overland into Bolivia is the next option.

Bus to Chilean border

Today however, a stroke of luck!

The bus is actually leaving and so, we wait at the bus station with all our belongings. The journey is only around six hours.

Setting off early and on time, the bus is totally full as many passengers also waited over a week to cross the border in to Chile.

Our hopes are high, but short lived.

Arriving just a few kilometres from the border, our bus is stopped by guards.

You cannot go any further.

Seriously?

The snow is 2-metres deep at the border and buses cannot pass – you need to turn back!

But we’ve just travelled almost six hours with only a splattering of snow on the ground. No major snow in sight.

How can the snow suddenly become 2-metres deep, just at the border?

Everyone is angry.

Locals are getting off the bus and arguing with the guards as they don’t believe the story, and say it’s a political excuse.

The love/hate relationship between Argentina and Chile is no secret – although these two countries have never been to war and even though the countries share the longest border in the world.

The bus driver is cheesed off. The mood is tense. I am hoping violence won’t be next.

But, the guards are not swayed. We are not going to the border today.

Our bus is turned back for the return six-hour journey to Salta. Another day is lost.

Everyone is miserable.

A positive? We went on a bus trip today! 🙂

Arriving back at the station, we immediately bought an overnight bus ticket for this evening, to the Quiaca-Villazon border crossing and in to Bolivia. Headed back to the hostel to wait.

Salta, Argentina, South America

Traveller

Our friends at the hostel greeted us with disbelief. After 14 days in Salta and a 12-hour fruitless bus trip, we are back, but cannot stay any longer.


Accommodation

Salta offers many types of accommodation at varying prices. My rule of thumb is to read the reviews before booking, but even then, it’s hit and miss.

Most hostels are a great meeting place and the communal kitchens are a hype of activity. Meals can be shared with other travellers and some hostels host different food and theme nights, which are fun.

It is in the Salta Por Siempre hostel that we met and instantly connected with our great empathetic friends. Extradited from the UK – well, not really – just travellers like us and would continually bump into these two along the way.

Funny how fate and paths cross.

Cathedral, Salta, Argentina, South America

Cathedral reflection – hopefully the last time for a while

Leaving Salta at last

Despondent at today’s turn of events not reaching the border, but at also missing the Atacama Desert, a new travel chapter commences tonight.

I hope that the overnight bus to the Bolivian border Quiaca and on to Villazon, arrives without any dramas. Although, we all know that this is South America and anything can happen…

Visit Nilla’s Photography for more images. More posts on Argentina at Image Earth Travel.

Salta, Argentina, South America

Bus station shoe shines

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34 thoughts on “Introducing beautiful Salta, Argentina

  1. What a fascinating trip that I would love to copy! El tren de las nubes, especially! I live visiting these small towns and really experiencing the culture and traditions.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I do love seeing a beautiful cathedral and this one is gorgeous. As far as having the perfect trip where nothing goes wrong, does it exist? The secret is to stay calm and go with the flow because most situations can be sorted out. It’s a shame you missed the desert though.

    Liked by 1 person

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